3 August 2021

Seven's Olympics coverage worthy of a gold medal

| Tim Gavel
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A view of the ABC commentary studio for the Rio Olympics

A view of the ABC commentary studio for the Rio Olympics set up at Redfern. Photo: Tim Gavel.

With the Tokyo Olympics in a comparable time zone to Australia, and with so many in COVID-19 lockdown, more people appear to be engrossed in the Olympic Games than ever.

The larger television audience is aided by Channel 7’s app function, allowing the viewer to have considerable choice in event selection.

With plenty of eyeballs on Seven’s coverage, there has been an almost simultaneous coverage on social media, analysing the commentary on offer.

Having commentated at seven Olympic Games for the ABC, beginning with Barcelona in 1992, this is my first Games since that year of not providing commentary. So as a viewer, I have found the entire experience remarkable. And given the hurdles presented by COVID restrictions, the coverage has been superb.

The vast majority of commentary has been undertaken through television, with commentators positioned in Melbourne and Sydney, supported by reporters on the ground in Tokyo.

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Having undertaken commentary of the Rio Olympics via television in Sydney, I can speak from experience about the difficulty in generating a feel for the competition from a remote commentary point.

Channel 7 has benefitted enormously through their choice of expert commentators, with Ian Thorpe and Leisel Jones leading the way with their swimming analysis.

Thorpe’s ability to position viewers into a race has been a revelation, an even more impressive feat given he was providing his commentary from Melbourne as he watched the vision fed from the Olympic venue in Tokyo.

Former long jumper Dave Culbert has been one of the leading track and field commentators for many years, but his versatility during these Games has come to the fore.

His contribution with Richard Fox in the slalom was one of the highlights of the Games coverage. He allowed Fox to effectively take the lead, a selfless act and not as easy as it sounds in the heat of commentary.

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Similarly, Matt Hill’s commentary of the rowing has to be applauded given the reliance on footage from the host broadcaster. Hill’s ability to react with ease to the unexpected, such as a crew suddenly coming into view from the bottom of the screen, was impressive.

Alister Nicholson, one of my former colleagues at the ABC, has always been a great commentator. His excellent, precise hockey commentary has exposed his ability to wider audiences. His expert commentator at the hockey, former Hockeyroo Georgie Parker, has been equally impressive.

Phil Liggett is rightfully regarded as the voice of cycling. His commentary of the road cycling in Tokyo brought his talents to the homes of an Australian audience via his commentary position in a studio west of London near Heathrow Airport, supported by his expert commentators back in Australia. Scott McGrory and Anna Meares provided great insight as expert commentators.

When considering experts, Russell Mark was excellent in his commentary of the shooting. This is not an easy sport to call via a screen. It is quick and very focused.

Russell Mark has considerable experience with Olympic shooting having competed in six Olympics and gaining a gold medal at the 1996 Atlanta Games. Photo: Goshooting.com.

Russell Mark has considerable experience with Olympic shooting, having competed in six Olympics and gaining a gold medal at the 1996 Atlanta Games. Photo: Goshooting.com.

Tamsyn Lewis-Manou was the perfect foil for Bruce McAveny, who is providing commentary in his 11th Olympics. His call of the 10,000 metres was one of his best. Once again, this is not an easy race to call via a television screen, particularly when runners are not bunched together.

Brenton Speed continues to impress as a football commentator, while it was great to see Greg Clark back calling the rugby.

Special mention needs to be made of Matt Carmichael, who has significantly added to the coverage with his ability to relate to athletes and analyse a range of issues.

Bringing these Olympics to the lounge rooms of Australians during a pandemic has been a logistical triumph. The commentary teams have been the icing on the cake, covering the performances of so many wonderful, talented athletes who are performing on the greatest sports stage in the world.


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I know Seven had no control over the pictures they were getting from the IOC’s media centre, but the quality of them was terrible and the colours were faded and fuzzy. You couldn’t see the ball in the golf, you couldn’t see the hoops in the rhythmic gymnastics and there were other occasions where the action on the screen could only be discerned by the commentary.

Normally during Olympic games, the quality of the picture is top-notch, but this time I don’t know what happened. It is especially puzzling considering the pictures were coming out of Japan with their history of technology and the fact that they led the world in development of colour TV and digital broadcasting.

I hope the French do a better job next Olympics. Meanwhile Seven did as good a job as they could do under the circumstances.

I have to agree Tim. The whole Olympic viewing experience has gone up several notches. The Seven app has been fabulous. I can watch what appeals to me. And I quite like that I’m getting commentary on the app from people other than Australians. Interesting to hear opinions about Aussies from others.

Stephen Saunders11:15 am 04 Aug 21

Being able to watch whatever sport you like whenever you like is a huge improvement, long may it reign. For free, this is a great deal. If you don’t believe Tim Gavel, just read some of the whinges that the US and EU coverage (even when paid) is provoking.

Coverage and commentary excellent. 7app for Apple TV, last place in the heats.

Capital Retro9:14 am 04 Aug 21

Some of the acting in the Matildas v Sweden match a few days ago rivaled that of professional actresses in movies shown at the Scandanavian Film Festival at Palace Theatre over the past couple of weeks.

Why don’t the commentators call this out a bit more; or is it culturally embedded in the game?

It’s a normal part of the game. Makes it so hard to watch.

Noelene Lafferty8:47 am 04 Aug 21

I really appreciate being able to watch just one sport session of my choice at a time, from start to finish, through the 7+ app, with minimal (if any) commercial or station breaks. The commentary in all cases is excellent, I had not realised it was being done remotely here in Australia.

I enjoyed watching the new olympic sports of skateboarding, bmx trick cycling and scampering up a wall in 7 seconds (rockclimbing). My vote for the most boring olympic sport goes to dressage. Commentry was good, but needs greater coverage of smaller teams and less known sports.

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